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Plywood Boat Beats the Big Boys in California Offshore Race Week

Sailed by Seattle-based Alex Simanis and crew, Pell Mell has won California Offshore Race Week overall. “This is a remarkable accomplishment, but even more amazing is the fact that they achieved it racing on a renovated 27-ft plywood boat built 35 years ago,” writes Dennis Palmer, a friend of Alex. “Pell Mell is a Point Bonita 27, built in 1987 by Dave Sutter, flying the burgee of the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club. Their competitors raced in boats as long as 70 feet, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

awards at MPYC
The crew of Pell Mell accepts their prizes for the Spinnaker Cup. Left to right: Monterey Peninsula YC vice commodore Jeff Kise, skipper Alex Simanis, Elishia Van Luven and Joe Wilderman. Jeff picked the prizes: “things you use instead of things you dust.”
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The smallest boat that sailed the entire course of California Offshore Race Week won the first leg, the Spinnaker Cup overall, the SoCal 300 overall, and CORW overall. At the opposite extreme of the fleet size range, the Santa Cruz 70 Pied Piper won the Coastal Cup overall.

Pied Piper
Jack Jennings’ Illinois-based SC70 Pied Piper prepares to start the Coastal Cup.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

CORW started in San Francisco with the Spinnaker Cup to Monterey on Saturday, May 28; continued with the Coastal Cup from Monterey to Santa Barbara starting on May 30; and finished with the SoCal 300 from Santa Barbara to San Diego starting on June 2.

Pell Mell
The beautifully restored Pell Mell winds up for her start in the Coastal Cup.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Conditions ranged from typical breezy conditions in San Francisco Bay at the start, to very light air down the coast past Half Moon Bay, to gale warnings on Memorial Day (a few boats opted to start the voyage to Santa Barbara on Tuesday instead of Monday due to the dire forecast), to more light air on the SoCal leg.

Crew of Pell Mell
Aboard Pell Mell in the SoCal 300: Joe Wilderman, Alex Simanis and Ben Towry.
© 2022 Ben Towry

We’ll have much more in the July issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, check out the results at

Lucky Duck with US flag
The MPYC signal boat flew this flag in honor of Memorial Day. That’s Dave MacEwen’s Rogers 46 Lucky Duck headed for the start line of the Coastal Cup. She finished first in class in the Spinnaker Cup, but dismasted in the Coastal Cup, ending her race week.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Our thanks to the folks who welcomed us in Monterey.

Rodney Pimentel’s Encinal YC-flagged Cal 40 Azure splashes through a wave while tacking for the start of the Coastal Cup. One of many scenic Monterey Bay beaches can be admired in the background.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

1 Comment

  1. Grant Robinson 8 months ago

    Great to see and congratulations. I beleive it is possible to still build wooden/plywood racing yachts to be light weight and very competitive yachts. I have designed both wood and carbon fiber, and find the wood far more enjoyable to sail and build.

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